Design as a career – Where to study in Johannesburg
May 6, 2022

Design as a career

It’s about that time of year when the university applications are open and students are trying to find the right fit for them. We wanted to make things a little easier on our fellow and future designers by providing you with a list of universities and colleges that offer design courses and degrees in Johannesburg. We’ll also be giving you an inside scoop from our head designer on just how different the working world is from your studies. 

There are several different types of design, from graphic and digital to interior and fashion design. Johannesburg has a range of accredited schools that have it all. We’ve done some research and found a few private colleges and public universities that offer design courses to guide you through your options for studying design.

Where you can study

Private colleges



Open Window

Greenside Design Centre


University of Johannesburg

UP – Tuks


Advice from our head designer and co-owner

Our head designer and co-owner of ZenZero Agency, Kayla, attended Vega Design School and graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. She has since continued to work as a graphic designer and web designer (and founded ZenZero Agency|) so she knows a thing or two about the industry and how it differs from university. 

So, we asked Kayla a few questions to give you some real insights…

Tips on getting through University?

“My biggest tip (and you aren’t going to like it), you NEED to get a job. I know, I know, studying is hard and time-consuming, you may not need to do it for money, or you may feel like it’s a waste of time. It’s not…. Get that damn job. Even if it is working in a restaurant or (what myself and many other uni students fall into) selling shots at bars, do it. It will not only give you experiences and skills vital to your future but it will also introduce you to new people, you’ll make new friends, and most importantly it will make a huge impact on your CV. When an employer is hiring someone right out of uni they don’t care that you waited tables, they care that you can juggle multiple things at once and you are prepared to work. Your CV will get that boost that just might get you the job that propels your future.” 

What did it prepare you well for?

“It prepared me well for criticism, definitely criticism. There were so many cases of handing in an assignment that I thought was on top of the world, only to get my marks back and see I barely passed. Obviously, at the time you think it is unfair and the lecturer has a vendetta against you, but going into the real world, you realize that No.1 Your creative director is a lot harsher and No.2 It’s not personal, it’s business. I would have had a harder time accepting that if my feedback had been all sunshine and roses on every assignment I handed in.” 

What did you feel unprepared for when you started working?

“I felt completely unprepared for the full day of work and the speed at which you are expected to produce. 4 hours of lectures a day (that you can skip every time you don’t feel like it) is completely different from 8+ hours that you definitely… cannot… skip. And in those 8 hours, you are expected to produce what would have taken in a week in university. It is like being thrown into the deep end.”

Was working life what you imagined it to be?

“I expected it to be more glamorous, wearing nice new clothes to my fancy office and feeling like a real grownup. In reality, it’s sweatpants and working from home. I guess it is where you work and how you are expected to present yourself but I gravitated towards a more laid-back environment. Other than that I had no real expectations, I worked multiple jobs while I studied so I was reasonably prepared for a chain of command and answering to a boss or manager.”  

What do you wish you knew before you started working? 

Things are a lot less permanent than they seem and sometimes you don’t have to accept a bad working environment because it is what is “expected”.

“I stayed in far too many bad jobs for far too long because it had been drilled into me that “You have to work longer than a year in every job” or my favorite “ If you aren’t happy here then you won’t be happy anywhere”. Everything within reason, obviously, but if you go home every day completely unhappy with how your work day transpired and how you were treated then line up another job and leave. It’s work, not leisure, so nowhere will be perfect, but you deserve to be treated like a human being and no, it’s not unreasonable.”

Last thoughts

“You are becoming an adult and starting your new independent life, which means your whole world will be shifted and you will be thrown out of balance for a bit. Because of that, I made the mistake of thinking that everybody was looking at me and judging me which made it harder to do things full-heartedly. Don’t make that mistake, say hi to everybody in your classes and get to know them, they just might be friends you carry for life. Join the after-class activities and immerse yourself fully.”

Be funny, silly, weird and unapologetically authentic. Trust me, nobody cares. You got this.

Kayla Manfredo


Kayla is our head designer and blog post gal. She works hard every week to bring you new and exciting posts along with Vanessa, who talks about marketing, and Mirko, who talks about buisness.


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